It was Giorgio's own fault. Really. Sandy and I were quite happy to do our part. But if Giorgio hadn't been such a snotty little bitch, we would have never done him that way.

For three glorious years Sandy and I had thought we'd found paradise on the Mediterranean island of Malta. We'd managed to live well on his stipend from the British Royal Navy and were quite pleased with our pleasant little art gallery on the St. Julian's waterfront. And we were more than pleased with our association with Rocco and Sebastien, both professionally and as partners in bridge, travels, and just sitting in the cafes on the promenades of whatever quaint Maltese seaside town or village we were exploring on any given day and making catty remarks about the passing tourists. Sandy and Rocco were of an 'age' that neither wanted to discuss any more and Sebastien and I were much younger but fully satisfied by our respective 'daddies.' We were still somewhat different, however, because Sebastien enjoyed serving under his master whereas Sandy preferred me riding his waves. The differences all made for conviviality and some very torrid and amusing conversation.

From the beginning Sandy told me that we were destined to last longer than Rocco and Sebastien and to lose them as friends and coconspirators - and he was right. But he wasn't right for the reasons he supposed. He continually told me that when the top was older, the fire would burn out quicker; that as long as I was young and vigorous, however, we could fuck until Sandy was senile and incontinent. But Rocco and Sebastien had their break a long time before reaching that stage. Both Sandy and I felt the loss greatly when our little foursome broke up. And the split came on artistic differences, of all things, rather than any diminishing of their sex drive or ability to perform.

Rocco was the fine artist. We met him when we started to fill our gallery with his charcoal pastels. And we had started carrying his art before we realized that he lived in the old stone villa high on the hill on the road from St. Julian's to the capital city, Valletta. Sandy and I had often remarked on how intriguing was the villa's blood-red double-entry door and garage door set in a solid wall of ancient gray stone broken only by a curly-rodded black iron balcony over the door guarding a single French window in the second story. The front of the house was right up against a curve in the road, and once you cleared that wall on your way back to the sea, the east coast of Malt opened up in a breathtaking view. Until we met Rocco we never could discern how good the view was from the side of the old house that faced the sea. And after we met him we fully understood what inspired his art as he worked in the room behind that French door to the street, but with broad windows open to the view of St. Julian's harbor.

When we were first invited to enjoy that view and he introduced us to his 'other,' we realized that we had known his resident lover, Sebastien, even before we ever heard of Rocco or his art. Young Sebastien, at once sensual and high strung, was the art critic for two Valletta newspapers, the 'It Torca' in Maltese and the 'Malta Today' in English. He had the best of art credentials from the Sorbonne and had even worked at the Louvre for a couple of years despite his young age. He had come to the Mediterranean for his health and had hooked up with the best artist he could find who was inclined in his direction.

It seemed an arrangement made in heaven, but it proved to be their downfall. Just when Sandy and I thought that our foursome could not get any better, there was a bitter battle royal in the old villa above St. Julian's that we could hear down at the art gallery in the harbor. Sandy and I made a mad dash up the hill in his Alpha Romeo, but we were too late. When we got there, Sebastien had already packed up and was gone.

Rocco met us in the doorway waving a copy of 'It Torca' in his hand.

'Did you see what that little turd did?' he yelled at Sandy.

'Could I have been knifed in the heart by any greater treachery?' he turned and yelled at me?

Sandy and I were both mystified. Neither of us spoke Maltese, so there wasn't a prayer we could read the paper he was waving at us - and we were quick to remind Rocco of that.

'No problem,' Rocco yelled again, and he disappeared into what functioned as his main-floor parlor, a particularly nice, warm-colored room overlooking a hillside terrace and a small, but inviting swimming pool. We could barely see the rim of the St. Julian's coast beyond the boxwood hedge marking the lip of the hill.

'No problem,' Rocco screamed again, as he rushed from a back room with yet another newspaper, this time the English-language 'Malta Today.'

'It wasn't enough for him to have stabbed me in Maltese; he did it in English as well.'

Sandy and I gathered around and read the article in the newspaper, as a steaming Rocco fiddled around behind his bar, looking for some scotch to douse on the flames.

I could see Rocco's point and said so, in a way. Knowing something of art by now, I could also see Sebastien's point. I didn't want to see this break, though, so I tempered my comment. 'I'm sure he didn't - '

'No, I'm sure the little prick didn't given two thoughts to my feelings, either,' Rocco said as he moved back from behind the bar, scotch sloshing out of a glass far too large for anyone's safety.

That wasn't quite what I meant to say, but I let it ride. Sebastien's article praised Rocco's work but suggested that his talents were wasted on charcoal pastels - that he would develop his skills much farther by moving to colorful acrylics and that a place like Malta was just begging for him to do so.

'I don't think - ' I started. Sebastien had been unthinking and not a little disloyal, I had to agree, to put that in print, but . . .

I didn't get any farther. Rocco gave me a murderous look and sank down into an overstuffed chair and began to blubber. The glass of scotch, still largely untouched, teetered on the edge of a glass-topped coffee table.

Sandy leaned down and moved the scotch to safer ground and put his hand on Rocco's shoulder. Rocco huddled even more into himself, however.

'We can stay if you like,' Sandy said. 'Whatever you like. If you'd like to be alone, however, we'll return to the gallery and wait for you to call us. Whatever you like. You know we will be here for you when you need us.'

Rocco continued to sob, but he did mutter his thanks and say that, yes, he didn't like for us to see him this way and it would be best for him to be alone for a while.

As we shut the blood-red double doors behind us and climbed into the Alpha Romeo, I whispered, 'Is it really safe to leave him like this? Do you really think it's good of us to?'

'We had to leave just now,' Sandy answered grimly. 'You were tipping over the edge of saying the wrong things, and if I had remarked, I most surely would have said the wrong things too. It was disastrous for Sebastien to write that, but he's been trying to tell that to Rocco to his face for months now, and he's absolutely right. Rocco is limiting himself with the pastels. And they aren't selling well - or at least as well as his work should sell. His talent goes beyond that. Sebastien was right; he was just a stupid prig about it. And I didn't want to join him in that. And neither did I want to lie to Rocco.'

That night, after the gallery closed, Sandy and I went up to the roof of the gallery with a futon and a triangular bolster, and we made wild, exhausting love under the stars and clear skies. Sandy wanted me rough and hard and deep inside him, repeatedly, and I obliged, pushing him first belly over the bolster and fucking hard down into him from the rear and then turning him with his back on the broad side of the bolster and rocking him on my cock back and forth on the edge of the triangle until we collapsed in a satiated heap. We fucked as if it was our last time, both of us thinking of the unfortunate split between Rocco and Sebastien - and feeling very vulnerable and sorry for ourselves as well. We kept looking up the hill to the old stone villa that was usually fully lit up at this time of night and alive with the sound of conviviality. But tonight it was dark and brooding. And then with nothing else I could do, I centered my frustration on twisting and turning and churning my cock inside Sandy until his cries for more subsided into whimperings of being well and completely undone.

The situation remained dark and brooding for weeks, as Rocco sank deeper in his depression. And often he was not there when we went up the hill to check on him. When he was there, we saw that he wasn't working on anything in his studio. He didn't even have his charcoals out and set up. But there was a mounting collection of empty scotch bottles lined up on and behind his bar. He was polite and welcoming to our presence, but in a absent, quiet way he had never displayed before. For a brief time then we thought that he was coming out of his depression. There were signs that he was painting again. And when his first post-Sebastien work was delivered down the hill to be hung in our gallery, Sandy's eyes flashed with pleasure. It was an acrylic painting; it caught the gaiety of St. Julian's harbor and the separate blues of the Mediterranean and the bright sky perfectly, and it was far better than the charcoals Rocco had been doing before. And, justifying much, it was snapped up at the asking price by an oohing and ahhing buyer within days.

But then no more paintings came down the hill and we saw little of Rocco for two weeks. It wasn't long after that before we heard where he was going most evenings and what was absorbing his time. There was a new bartender from Venice at Tom's Bar in Floriana. Sandy dragged me over there one night just to check the rumor out and it was confirmed and we were totally distressed. Rocco was sitting there at the bar mooning over a swishy little transvestite who was serving him scotches. Giorgio was a cute little trick, but not something that we'd ever seen attract Rocco before - and he certainly wasn't any Sebastien. Sebastien was elegant and glib and had a great sense of humor. This Giorgio was pretty all right, but he was also coarse and a little piggish and reminded me of a ferret searching for food to steal.

Rocco saw Sandy and me lurking in the shadows of the club. He called us over, and we tried to be polite and inviting, but it was obvious that Giorgio saw us instantly as an intrusion and a threat.

Rocco suggested that we all meet at a seaside cafe over in St. George's the next day for one of our 'catty gatherings,' as we called them. He said he had missed our outings, and we readily - and genuinely with pleasure - agreed. We had sorely missed the outings as well. It was, of course, a disaster. Whereas the delicate balance of Rocco, Sebastien, Sandy, and Hank had been a perfect, made in heaven, meringue, the replacement of Sebastien with Giorgio was a flopped souffle. Giorgio resented every word spoken by Rocco to either Sandy or me; he was crudely vocal while saying he failed to see any of the well-crafted digs we made about passers by; and his own contributions were consistently dumb and off key. Rocco didn't seem to notice, but the rest of us certainly did. As stupid as he was, the odd-transvestite-out message certainly wasn't lost on Giorgio.

This being the case, and Giorgio being Giorgio, and Giorgio already having learned what a good deal living under Rocco's roof was, it was obvious to Sandy and me where this was heading.

The declaration of war came within a week. We had included Rocco's pastels we still had on hand in a gallery opening cocktail party when a cruise ship ripe with rich Americans was scheduled to dock at St. Julian's. We sent Rocco an invitation to be present and to use his abundant charm to help flog his work to the tourists. He didn't answer the invitation; but, then, he never had before and still he'd always shown up. This time he didn't materialize. At the height of the opening, when it was evident that Rocco could sell some of his pieces if he only was there, Sandy suggested I take the Alpha Romeo and zip up the hill and bring him down.

No one answered the door, so I pushed it open, as we had been given permission to do, and went in. I was about to mount the stairs to the studio when I heard low moaning coming from the terrace. I went over to the French window to discover that it was Rocco who was doing the moaning. He was sitting, naked in a chair by the pool, his back to me. Giorgio, in full dress, was straddling his lap, facing him. Giorgio's face was fully made up with a vivid slash of red lipstick across his face. He was wearing a wig of long, black hair, which he was swishing around on Rocco's knees with his head thrown back. The bodice of his dress was pulled down to his waist and his black, lacy brassiere was hanging open. His skirt was also hiked up to his waist and he was waving two, thin, shapely legs on either side of the back of the chair. His legs were encased in long black stockings, and he was pointing the toes of stiletto heels at me. Giorgio was in motion, his answer for a pussy being moved back and forth on Rocco's cock. The transvestite was mewing softly, and Rocco was moaning and grunting at the effort of the fuck. Giorgio lifted his head and saw me standing inside the French window. He gave me a languid, self-satisfied stare with mascaraed slitted eyelids. With one hand, he pulled Rocco's face into his chest, and I heard the suckling sounds of lips on a nipple. And with the other hand Giorgio, slowly lifted his palm and gave me a distinct, universally understood one-finger salute.

There was no doubt in my mind that the invitation to the gallery opening had never been brought to Rocco's attention.

When we had last met at the cafe in St. George's we had set the next gathering date in the harbor at St. Julian's. At the appointed date and time, Sandy and I were at the cafe, willing to try our best to make this work, both for Rocco's sake and for our own. A half hour after we were supposed to meet, we saw Rocco and Giorgio strolling on the other side of the harbor. Giorgio, a shapely and saucy blonde this time in a smart morning dress, was compelling Rocco to look at the displays in the shop windows, turned away from the harbor. Giorgio was giving Sandy and me looks, however. They were looks of hostility and triumph. And once again there was that raised one-finger salute out of Rocco's view before the two turned into a street running up the hill from the harbor and disappeared.

If Rocco were happy and if he was making the most of his art, Sandy and I would just have left him alone. But even though Rocco thought he was happy, we could see that he was growing older by the moment and losing his health. He had bags under his eyes whenever we saw him and seemed a little dazed. We decided that Giorgio must be giving him drugs. And there were no artworks coming down the hill, either pastels or acrylics.

We achingly missed the company of Rocco and Sebastien together. We even briefly considered selling the gallery and moving on to someplace else. But then we got angry. We didn't think we were wrong that Rocco was coming out of his depression before he was taken over by Giorgio and even was coming around to a reconciliation with Sebastien. Premier in our thinking in this direction was that he had painted an acrylic masterpiece, as Sebastien had been after him to do, and that he couldn't have been unaware that the acrylic was far superior to the pastels - that Sebastien had been right and had been trying to help make him the best artist and happiest lover that he could be.

Sandy and I decided to save Rocco from himself - and for us. That meant Giorgio had to go. No guilt there; he had declared war first, and had conducted dirty maneuvers. We would have made room for him even if the quality of the foursome obviously was going to make a nosedive. He was the one who had struck first and hardest. We had to intervene.

It turned out quite simple really. We arranged for a cousin Rocco cared for who lived on the sister island of Gozo, in Victoria, to be conveniently indisposed and needing to see Rocco just in case this was 'it.' Then we arranged for another friend to pick Giorgio up at Tom's Bar in Floriana, near Valletta after closing for a well-paid fuck. We were sure that Giorgio was still taking tricks on the side when he could, and we weren't wrong. We even had the friend specify that Giorgio would probably be servicing several men that evening - and Giorgio hadn't blinked an eye at the prospect.

The friend brought Giorgio in through the back of a leather bar in Valetta, to a private pool room, where we had gathered a smattering of leather-swathed toughies.

While Giorgio screamed out his indignation - presumably wholly because he spied Sandy and me - we laid him flat on his back on the pool table. Sandy held his arms and our friend and one of the leathermen each held a leg wide with strong fists around his dainty ankles. I then slowly unbuttoned his blouse and his bra and pulled them open and hiked up his skirt, all the time telling him that Sandy and I just wanted to become better acquainted with him. He had black silk stockings attached to a garter belt, but he wasn't wearing any panties, no doubt ready for the after-hours extra money he planned to make.

To bring home our regard for him, I took my wallet out and fished out a few lira and flipped them on the table beside where he was laying. I told him that Sandy and I would certainly pay him for his time, just as he had expected would happen - just as we would make sure that Rocco heard was happening - but that I thought a few lira was all a whore like him was worth.

Then I stripped; rolled on a condom that had been proffered to me; got up on the table, my knees under his butt cheeks; and in front of a cheering audience, I began to work my tool inside the writhing body underneath me. I had learned to be very good at what I did, and it wasn't long before Giorgio's curses of indignation turned into more passioned pleas to ride him hard and deeper. Sandy, still standing above him, let others hold Giorgio's arms and unzipped himself and presented his cock for sucking, and Giorgio readily serviced him with his mouth and his ruby-red lips. Giorgio didn't seem to mind now at all that Sandy and I were involved in his taking.

Giorgio's cock was getting bigger and bigger and he begged to have a hand released so he could pleasure himself. When we refused him, he begged for one of the spectators to oblige, but we refused that too. I just kept pumping and pumping him at one end, as Sandy was doing at the other.

When it looked like Giorgio's cock was about to explode, Sandy gave a command and I stopped pumping, Sandy withdrew his cock from Giorgio's mouth, and the other handlers held Giorgio very still, not letting him move a muscle until the surge toward ejaculation had subsided. We then started working him again, and, each time he was about to come, we stopped and held him off from release. He was whimpering and moaning now, begging us to finish him, crying that his balls were aching from the built up, unspilled seed. But we didn't allow him to release.

After the fourth standoff, I pulled out of Giorgio and Sandy joined me on top of the adjacent pool table, and we made Giorgio watch as I turned Sandy, stretched out, onto his belly, pulled his hips up with my hands, positioned myself between his thighs on my knees, and fucked him deeply and vigorously to our shared, passion-filled release.

Then, giving Giorgio a contemptuous look, we had him released, and we all just filed out of the room.

Needless to say, we never saw Giorgio again. He left Malta the next day, having cleared out of Rocco's villa that night before Rocco returned from Gozo.

We went to see Rocco the next day, and although he seemed sad and distracted, as well as we knew Rocco we could also see the underlying, unspoken relief. We found him sitting on the terrace, clothed and in front of an easel.

After we'd said our good mornings, Sandy, the cleverer and more sensitive conversationalist of the two of us, said, 'What are those paints in your paint kit, Rocco?'

'Acrylics,' Rocco said simply, offering no further explanation.

Not needing any, Sandy merely said, 'Good. You know the one you did more than a month ago sold quickly at the gallery.'

'Indeed?' Rocco said. He returned to dabbing his fast-drying paint on the canvas. But he was smiling.

'We found a telephone number for Sebastien in Nice,' Sandy then said. 'Hank and I miss him and are thinking of inviting him over for a weekend for a cafe crawl. Would you mind terribly if we did that? Of course, we won't if you mind.'

Silence for a few seconds, and then Rocco said, 'No, no, I wouldn't mind that at all.' He was still stroking his painting on the canvas and looking squarely at what he was creating there. But he also was still smiling.



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